I met Reem Ali last week at a Chamber of Commerce grand opening and ribbon cutting event, and it was the first time I had ever been inside a pre-paid cellular phone shop. This lovely brand-new Boost Mobile by Cellular Experts outlet is located on the east side of the Athens Publix shopping center. Reem and I chatted for a while, and hearing her family’s story was both inspiring as well as fascinating. I also enjoyed the fact that she was willing to be a part of the subsequent dunk tank “festivities” when I stopped back for their Memorial Day weekend party, and her grin told me she didn’t mind the prospect of getting wet if it would benefit the rest of her team.
Reem and her brother Sami were born in Ethiopia, and came here to the states in 1980. Their father was a businessman, and their family had to flee during the dreadful civil war which took the lives of an estimated 1.4 million Ethiopian citizens. Let’s just say that this family appreciates being in America, and all of them have worked very hard to build a life for themselves and to give back to their community. The Ali kids went to school in Huntsville; Reem graduated from Grissom High, and got a degree in Business Administration from UAH. She spent several years in the hospitality industry, including working in management for the Hyatt Corporation. Since coming to the states, Reem and Sami also returned to Africa for a period of 10 years, and one of the things that is now on Reem’s “bucket list” is to someday be involved in orphanage work. She loves kids, and you can tell she cares about the millennials who work for her. While she was back in Africa, Reem was involved in hospitality and catering for events sponsored by the United Nations.
After Sami and Reem returned to the states, Sami began to work for Sprint, and his hard work paid off in the form of a number of new opportunities. When Sprint broke into the pre-paid market, he knew that this was an approach whose time had come, and he changed his marketing focus from post-paid to pre-paid cellular service. Reem wanted to return to Huntsville to be near their family, and joined Sami as part of his company, Cellular Experts. “My role is people management,” she told me, and Sami and she own 12 Boost stores -- 4 in Georgia, 8 in Alabama.
Briefly explained, post-paid cellular plans tend to be more expensive, and involve long-term contracts and credit checks. There are substantial penalties for leaving the plan early, and they are often filled with extra taxes and hidden fees. So, that “bargain” that is advertised many times is anything but.
By comparison, with a pre-paid plan, you know ahead of time what the full cost of your bill is going to be, so budgeting is much easier. There are no credit checks, and most importantly, no long-term contracts. There are also no monthly bills, no roaming charges, and no overage fees. You add minutes and features to your plan as you wish. With Boost, there is 4G coverage, and Boost utilizes Sprint’s cell towers. Bradley Lacey, who is our district manager and oversees all of our Alabama locations, told me that “they are working on 5G.” More on Bradley—he also has a degree in business management from UAH and worked for Sprint for 16 years. That’s how he met Sami and Reem. Bradley goes all the way back to the days when Sprint phones and plans were being sold in Amoco gas stations, and he has seen a lot of changes in the industry.
Bradley and Reem told me their focus these days is on “re-branding” pre-paid cellular service. Gone are the days of the images of “burner phones” being used by thugs. Reem said, “We are finding that grass-roots word-of-mouth advertising through satisfied customers is really helping.” Boost offers a plethora of plans and phones which will fit any budget. Bradley said, “There are seven types of free phones you can get, even flip phones if you prefer them, and right now you can get a new IPhone 6 for $99.” With that special offer, you get a single line with unlimited data for $50 a month, 3 lines for $100, and a 4-line family plan for $130 until July 16. One of the things I appreciate about Boost is their support for our military service members who are currently deployed and are going overseas. You can call Boost and put your account in a state of suspension, which keeps your account as well as your phone number active. In addition, if you have an Android or IOS, you will be able to connect to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Then, when you come back home, you call their deployed military service line, and they will fire everything back up at no charge.
If you choose to finance the purchase of your phone, they have purchase options, as well as phone replacement insurance plans. There are discounts for customers who are preferred due to their excellent payment history. If you come to Boost from another carrier, the transfer of your data is truly free, which is not the case with some pre-paid carriers.
“So, Bradley and Reem,” I said, “I have choices when it comes to phone service, and everyone wants my money. Why should I come to you?” “Three reasons,” they said. “Value, unlimited data, and exceptional customer service.” Come to Boost Mobile located at 22099 Hwy 72, Ste B, Athens, AL 35613, or call 256-444-4404, and see if they can’t truly give your cell phone plan a boost!22
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner